KARACHI, April 1: While the superior judiciary is trying to stamp out the growing corruption by taking suo motu notices and other steps, a timely disposal of the around 1,400 graft cases, including the Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM) and National Insurance Company Limited (NICL) scams, is highly unlikely as the federal anti-corruption court in the city has been non-functional for almost a year, it emerged on Sunday.
The trial of these cases has been stalled and the files have been gathering dust for want of a presiding officer.
The federal government had set up two special anti-corruption courts in Karachi for the speedy trial of a list of offences, including graft, human trafficking and forgery. However, around 1,400 cases have been pending as the tenure of the previous judge of the special federal anti-corruption court-II, Shaukat Ali Memon, expired in May 2011. Since then the court has been lying vacant.
Court sources said it was the responsibility of the federal law ministry to move a summary to the high court concerned for the appointment of the judge. However, the authorities concerned appear to be reluctant to do so. This not only puts the speedy disposal of pending cases at stake, but may also prove harmful for the cases of prosecution.
Although the trial of some cases of corruption in the PSM and the NICL were pending before the vacant court, the Supreme Court had taken suo motu notices of those cases.
It is usually believed that the delay in trial almost always benefits the accused and damages the case of the prosecution. Thus the ex-chairman of the PSM was among the accused that recently got bail from the high court as their cases had been at a standstill since May 2011 for want of a judge.
The former PSM chairman, Mueen Aftab Sheikh, former managing director Rasool Bux Phulpoto, former director (commercial) Sameen Asghar; chief executive officer of the Abbas Steel Group Sabeen Sakina, and directors of the group Malik Bashir and Khalid Khan have been charged with misusing their official powers with criminal intentions and connivance with others. They allegedly caused a colossal Rs22 billion financial loss to the PSM.
The prosecution said that although the PSM had sufficient stock of met coke and coal, its management had imported the raw material from Singapore and Australia at higher costs, resulting in huge financial loses to the national exchequer.
The prosecution added that the management had not considered the advice of the board of directors to form a high-level committee to bargain with different firms for the purchase of raw material.
A case (FIR 39/2009) was registered against the accused under Sections 406, 409, 420, 468, 471, 109/34 of the Pakistan Penal Code read with Section 5(2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1947 at the FIA Karachi, while three more cases (FIRs 36/09, 37/09 & 38/09) were registered against the ex-chairman and others.
The former PSM chairman was also booked with other officials and contractors in cases of financial irregularities, including retired brigadier Abdul Qayyum Khan, Ateeq Ahmed Khan, Imtiazul Haq, Asghar, Syed Zahid Ali Hashmi, Najamuddin, Mohammad Aslam and Ali Haider, who are accused of having awarded Rs80 million in canteen contracts.
Similarly, a case of the NICL land scam is also pending before the nonfunctional court. Former NICL chairman Ayaz Khan Niazi, executive director (finance) Mohammad Zahoor, general manager (audit) Ather Naqvi, general manager (real estate) Zahid Hussain and general manager (law) Ijaz Ahmed Sheikh, with their absconding accomplices have been charged with the violation of the law in the procurement of 10 acres in the Korangi area, which caused huge financial losses to the national exchequer.
Six men, including two directors of the NICL, Amin Qasim Dada and Javed Saeed, are the absconding accused in the case.